By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
March Madness is approaching for all men’s and women’s College Basketball teams in the nation. With five regular-season games left for the Women’s team, the Jaguars needed to make some adjustments for themselves before they start the Sun Belt Conference Championship Tournament play on March 10th in New Orleans, Louisiana. On Thursday, the Jaguars (12-13; 7-6 in the Sun Belt Conference play) hosted the Arkansas State Red Wolves (9-15; 6-7).
The Jaguars had a huge crowd of Mobile County Elementary School students and teachers on a field trip. There was a total of 2,104 attendees in the Jaguars’ game versus the Red Wolves. That massive crowd in the middle of the day proved to be a huge factor in the game for the Jags. South Alabama started fast and kept their foot on the gas pedal as they soundly beat the Red Wolves 87-71.
Guard Savannah Jones started off the game strong for the Jaguars by sinking a three-point shot 15-seconds into the game. The Jags lead as many as 14-points with a 17-3 lead four minutes into the game. South Alabama finished the first quarter with a 25-16 lead by dominating the offensive and defensive ends of the court. The Jaguars were making 69.2% of their field-goals and were 4-for-7 (57.1%) from the three-point arc. Arkansas State was held to 33.3% on field-goals (6-18) and three-point shot (3-9).
In the second quarter, the Jaguars were suffocating the Red Wolves’ offense by holding them to only 13 points. The Jags limited the wing shooters by holding the Red Wolves to 0-for-5 from behind the three-point arc. They were also more dominant in defending the paint. In the second quarter, center Antoinette Lewis accounted for five rebounds and two blocks. Forward Kennedi Centers accounted for a team-leading three blocks and four assists. The Jags made 61.5% of their overall field-goals (16-of-26) and 50% of their three-point shots (8-for-16).
Coming out halftime with a 45-29 lead, the Jaguars were looking to be more conservative with the ball. The Jags only attempted one shot from the three-point arc in the third quarter. 14 of the Jags’ 25 points in the third quarter came from the paint. Lewis led most of the charge by accounting for six points with four of those coming from teammates’ assists. Lewis was fed the ball constantly was either successful in getting the shots in or had drawn a foul from a Red Wolves defender. The Jags outscored the Red Wolves 25-24 in the third quarter to make it 70-53 going into the fourth quarter.
An attempted comeback from the Arkansas State causes them to have fatigue in the fourth quarter as the Jags were getting more tenacious on offense. The Jags led by as many as 21-points with 4:21 minutes left in the game. The Jaguars were outscored 18-17 in the fourth quarter, but it was when the bench players were taking over.
South Alabama finished the game shooting an efficient 53.4% in overall field-goals (31-of-58) and 46.2% from the three-point shooting game (12-of-26). Guard Damaya Telemaque led the team in points scored with 20 by shooting 7-for-9 in overall field-goals and 4-for-4 from the three-point arc. She also led the team in assists with five and accounted for five rebounds. Guard Savannah Jones finished the game with 16 points and seven rebounds. Forward Kennedi Centers accounted for 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and three blocks. Overall, the Jaguars held the Red Wolves to a field-goal shooting of 37.8% (28-for-74) and a 25% three-point shooting (7-for-28).
After the game, head coach Terry Fowler mentioned that he felt getting the players out of there early for small shootarounds helped build the atmosphere with multiple kids at the game. Coach Fowler said, “it’s so rare in women’s basketball to have that energy.” The crowd noise was continuous and loud in support of the Jaguars to get their 13th victory of the season.
The Jaguars (13-13; 8-6) will look to continue to improve with four regular-season games left before the Conference Championship Tournament. This Saturday, the Jags will host the Little Rock Trojans (10-14; 8-5) in the USA Mitchell Center.